Driving around in her taxi, Tammy Hogg feels she’s in her safe place.
Over the past two years, since she started driving a taxi for a company in Sooke, she’s encountered a range of people on a daily basis.
Transporting customers to and from their destinations has brought the self-professed introvert outside of her comfort zone and has made her more outgoing.
Being in the cab is like her safety bubble and she enjoys making others feel safe as well.
Now, the Sooke resident, alongside Shelley Evans and Balbir Rai, hope to bring that feeling of safety to others as part of an all-female taxi service called Women on Wheels.
The company would run two conventional taxis and two wheelchair accessible ones, both operating 24/7 to service the West Shore, as well as the rest of the municipalities throughout Greater Victoria.
“It’s all about a comfort zone, when someone gets into a cab whether it’s two minutes or 20 minutes. People just feel better getting into a cab, regardless of the time of day, with a female driver,” Hogg said.
“That’s what we’re focusing on – a safe zone for women, for gentlemen, the waitresses that need a cab ride home at the end of the night, people who are slightly impaired that just want to get home safe – just helping people.”
After working in the taxi industry for the past few years, Hogg, Evans and Rai began to notice a number of things: customers specifically asking for female drivers and a lack of customer service from other taxi drivers – something they hope to change with the new service. The trio also hope to focus on transporting seniors and those with special needs, as some taxi companies require them to call a day in advance or end up waiting for an hour, Hogg said.
“They’re just a normal call, they’re just somebody who needs more time getting in and out of a vehicle,” she said, adding, she’s received a lot of positive feedback from customers so far about the potential service.
“We’re focusing on that, on the customer service. We’re not only going to pick up women because some men and older gentlemen feel comfortable with a woman.”
All-female transportation services are picking up speed across the country. In Toronto, Aisha Addo founded DriverHer, a ride-share service operated exclusively by women for women, which launched last summer. A similar service called Lady Drive-Her also launched last year in Halifax.
Many of the services were launched to help women feel more comfortable taking taxis, as there have been a number of reported incidents across the country of sexual assaults by taxi drivers.
A bit closer to home, in December 2016 a Victoria-based taxi driver Baljinderjit Bhangu was convicted of sexually assaulting a young passenger in a February 2014 incident. He was sentenced to six months in jail followed by three years of probation.
Mohan Kang with the B.C. Taxi Association said there are a number of female taxi drivers throughout the Capital Regional District. He noted safety cameras were installed in all taxis in Greater Victoria in September 2009, which has helped protect both customers and drivers.
For now it’s a waiting game for those on the Island. Hogg recently sent paperwork to the Passenger Transportation Board, an independent tribunal that makes decisions on applications related to the licensing of taxis, limos and shuttle vans, for approval. They’ve also looked at hiring a few drivers and getting training set up as well.
If approved the trio can move forward with buying cars, ordering cameras and taxi meters, before completing a final safety inspection. If all goes according to plan, Hogg hopes to have the service up and running this year.
***Clarification: Baljinderjit Bhangu, mentioned in the March 23 edition of the Gazette (All-female taxi serviced eyed for the West Shore), was a Victoria-based taxi driver, not an employee of Victoria Taxi Ltd. We apologize for any confusion.